Why lady guns will never be quite like the men by professor p o behan brain anoxia

Why lady guns will never be quite like the men by professor P O behan

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GUN ROOM : why lady guns will never be quite like the men

From: country illustrated magazine. Issue 76, 2006.

Why lady guns will never

Be quite like the men

By professor P O behan

It is all in the mind, says professor P O behan, a senior neurologist whose study on the

Nature of male and female shooters breaks new ground. How the rules of gun-fitting

Are not the same for both: and why a lady may shoot better with one eye closed.


THERE is a distinct difference between

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Men and women in the way

They use their eyes when shooting.

Such differences are unlikely to be

Explained by socialisation or nurture,

But are part of a general phenomenon

Whereby certain abilities are performed with

Greater skill by one gender than the other.

This observation came about in the following

Manner, as told to me by mr fred buller,

Formerly managing director of the buckinghamshire

Gunmakers, frederick beesley.

Some 40 years ago jack kidwill, a man of

Independent means and a noted game shot

(he and percy stanbury were the best fred

Buller ever saw perform), was a customer of

Frederick beesley gunmakers. Although

Little could be taught him about shooting,

The details of gun fitting were discussed with

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Kidwill, who at the time was more interested in coaching his petite wife marjory—who

Had taken up clay shooting in her 40s—than

He was in his own performances, and indeed

This paid off handsomely when she became

Britain’s lady clay shooting champion and

Later european lady champion.

Kidwill lived for shooting, and eventually

Took up a full-time job as a shooting coach

And gun-fitter at the west london shooting

Grounds at greenford. In due course his

Outstanding ability was recognised, and he

Became purdey’s chief gun-fitter, which he

Remained for the rest of his years.

Although he fitted all comers, kidwill had

A special interest in fitting lady shooters, and

He had become aware of different factors to

Be considered for them.Brain anoxia his discovery was

That the ‘rules’ of gun fitting, so far as a person’s

Ability to shoot with two eyes open is

Concerned, did not work for many lady shooters,

Although no statistical records were kept.

In other words, it was often the case that a

Right-handed woman with a right ‘master eye’

Still had to close her left eye rather than shoot

With the advantage of having both eyes open,

As most men in a similar position can do.

The word ‘shooting’ here implies shooting

With a shotgun (with all other kinds the

Word is qualified, eg rifle shooting). In

Shooting it has long been recognised that

The gun must fit the owner if he is to exploit

His talent fully. A properly fitted gun is one

That allows the owner, caught on the wrong

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Foot while walking through a field of roots,

Just as a pheasant rises, to take the next natural

Step as he mounts his gun. This is in

Contrast to having to make an accommodation

For an ill-fitting gun—one that lacks the

Appropriate amount of cast, for instance—by placing the foot obliquely, thereby jeopardising

Balance in order to be on target.

It is obvious that variations in human

Physique must be taken into account by the

Gun-fitter. The most obvious adaptations

Are, first, differences in stock length to accommodate

Variations in arm length; secondly,

Differences in bend in the stock to

Accommodate variations in neck length and

Shoulder scope; and thirdly, differences in

The amount of cast (cast-off for right-handers,

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Cast-on for left-handers) in the stock

To accommodate variations of shoulder

Width. Before the gun-fitter can get to grips

With the above, however, he must test the sight of his client, even though experience

Has taught him that most shooters are righthanded

With a right ‘master eye’.

This ‘master eye’ concept is best understood

If one takes a simple test. Point at an

Object with both eyes open. If the image

Moves when you close your right eye, but

Stays still when you close the left eye, then

You have a right ‘master eye’. If, on the other

Hand, the image does not move when you

Close the right eye, but moves when you

Close the left eye, you have a left ‘master

Eye’. Most right-handed male shooters have

A right ‘master eye’ which allows them to

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Shoot with both eyes open. This gives them

A wider field of vision and a greater facility

To judge range than they would have with

Just one eye open. Likewise, most left-handed

Male shooters have a left ‘master eye’,

Which gives the same facilities as above.

There are, however, complications in

Gun fitting: for example, a right- or a lefthanded

Person, when tested, may have cyclopic

Or central vision, that is to say he has

Eyes with equal pulling strength, necessitating

A stock shaped as if to serve a functional

Eye in the middle of the forehead. Readers

Will notice that the above description relates

To male shooters, and they are not necessarily

Applicable to lady shooters.

As a working gun-fitter, fred buller has

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Been able to corroborate kidwill’s findings

Over decades—but this curious anomaly

Merits an explanation. Little study other

Than anecdotal observation has been made

Of male and female shooters. In this regard,

However, some observations on the differences

Between certain abilities of men and

Women may be pertinent. Some of the answer

To this apparent riddle is as follows.

Essentially, what has been found is that

Some women actually shoot better with one

Eye closed, as opposed to men who may

Shoot better with both eyes open. This is yet

Another difference between the functional

Ability for certain talents in men as opposed

To women. It has long been recognised that,

As well as the expected gender differences,

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There are many biological differences between

Men and women as, some years ago,

The late professor norman geschwind of

Harvard, and I myself have noted independently.

In our neurological clinics there

Seemed to be an association between lefthandedness

And certain biological characteristics,

With obvious gender differences.

For example, autism, dyslexia, stuttering or

Allergic disorders such as severe hay fever

Or asthma were not only increased in lefthanded

Individuals, but showed a striking

Preponderance of affected males.

When we consider the development of the

Brain, it is known that, usually by six to seven

Weeks after conception, the brain begins to

Take on a male or female form. In the main,

The sex genes determine whether the brain

brain anoxia

Will be male or female, but they themselves

Do not solely guarantee the gender of the

Child, which depends on the interaction of hormones with the brain. In other words,

Whatever the genetic makeup of the embryo,

The foetus will develop as a male only if

Testosterone is present. At six weeks after

Conception (and at adolescence) there will be

Enormous surges of testosterone. If testosterone

Is absent, the brain develops along female

Lines. If the brain is that of the female

Pattern, little change will take place, but if it is

A male brain then certain anatomical changes

Will begin to develop. Testosterone alters the

Way in which the brain is finally constructed.

We now come to the concept of cerebral

Dominance—the superior capacity of each

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Hemisphere of the brain to acquire particular

Skills. Dominance differs between men

And women: for example, most men who are

Right-handed have dominance for speech,

Language and motor function in the left

Hemisphere, while the right hemisphere

Controls visual and spatial ability and deals

With abstract forms, shapes and patterns.

When right-sided brain damage occurs in

Men and women, it is striking that men are

Severely incapacitated for spatial IQ tests,

While women with the lesion in the same

Part of the brain are hardly affected.

Men with a left-sided stroke, or damage

To the left hemisphere, lose a great deal

More of their language ability than women

With damage to the same anatomical site.

This indicates that, in women, language and

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Spatial skills are more diffusely distributed

Through the brain, whereas in males they are

More focally located. Men’s brains are said

To be more specialised. In men, the left side

Of the brain deals almost exclusively with

Verbal function and the right side, in visual

Function. Women use both hemispheres for

All functions. In neuropsychological tests using

Three-dimensional shapes, boys perform

Better when the data is exclusively presented

To the left eye (which feeds directly into the

Right hemisphere) while for girls, either eye

Can assess the problem equally. It is a common

Observation that women have the ability

To take in a great deal at a single glance.

Eye dominance, however, is by no means

An all-or-nothing affair, and is less easily

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Measured than hand dominance for skilled

Movements. There are now standardised

Tests for assessing eye dominance but these

Have not yet been used to discover the

Shooting abilities of men and women.

Shooting ability is clearly influenced by

Eye dominance. The fact is that individuals

Who are right-handed, but with left eye dominance,

Or left-handed with right eye dominance

Will not learn marksmanship skills as

Readily as individuals who have matched eye

And hand dominance. Formal studies have

Indeed shown that right-handers with right

Eye dominance are better marksmen than

Are right-handers with left eye dominance.

Examples of this are seen in other sports—for example in cricket, where batsmen

With matched eye-hand dominance are more

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Successful than others. The pattern, therefore,

Of eye-hand dominance seems to be related

To athletic proficiency in general. Further,

There is evidence in men that some may

Be very good at shooting static targets but

Poor at dealing with moving ones. This

Knowledge comes from fighter pilot training

During the war. Many pilots (perfectly capable

As fliers) turned out to be poor at shooting

Enemy aircraft. It became normal to identify

And transfer such pilots from spitfires

And hurricanes to typhoons and tempests,

Which were developed for attacking ground

Targets. Shooting at static targets against a

Rich background, such pilots shot well. Were

They mostly weakly lateralised left-handers

With mixed dominance, one wonders?Brain anoxia

There are well-recognised differences between

Men and women for certain tasks and

Abilities. Neuropsychologists have shown

That there is a definite superiority of females

In carrying out simple tasks such as the

Speed of colour naming, and tests which call

For rapid perception of details and frequent

Shifts of attention. Studies of students at

High school show that females have a clerical superiority and young girls have a greater

Ability than young boys in tasks using fine

Manual dexterity. Most people accept with a

Chuckle that females are superior to males

From childhood onwards in verbal

Functions, as they are in reading.

On the other hand, males usually

Perform better than females due

To their superiority in special spatial

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Skills, particularly after puberty. By

Spatial ability is meant the capacity to

See and picture objects regarding their

Size, shape, relative position and relationship

To each other. It seems to be related

To the male hormone, ie testosterone,

Since adult male patients who had suffered

Delayed puberty because of low levels of

Male hormones perform less well on spatial

Tasks than do healthy male volunteers with

Normal sex hormone levels. A reasonable

Generalisation, therefore, is that females

Perform better than males in verbal tasks,

Verbal fluency, articulation and spelling,

While males are superior at visuo-spatial

Tasks, where they can differentiate simultaneously

Between many different forms.

It can be seen therefore that there are sex

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Differences in neurological function, which

Represents the outcome of interaction between

Several different factors, the most

Important being sex hormones. These

Help to explain the differences between

Women and men in shooting ability.

Observations at sandhurst military

College showed that males

Had a marginally greater

Ability at shooting than

Females, but there have

Not been formal studies.

Several attempts

Over the years have

Been made to explain

These differences.

Some cite

Socio-cultural

Factors—that in the course of upbringing

Boys receive more exposure to visuo-spatial

Skills than girls. Others cite evolutionary

Pressures—women stay at home while men

Go out hunting, shoot with arrows, throw

Spears, and so forth.Brain anoxia in other words, the activities

Of men have given them an evolutionary

Edge on women for these specialised

Tasks. But the first tenets of socio-cultural

Skills can be dismissed, since they would not

Explain the differences in animals, only in

Humans, and it would be impossible to determine,

In the darwinian sense, whether

They are evolutionary in origin.

The fact is that the foetal prototype brain

Is female, and in the early stages the nervous

System is undifferentiated. Foetal testicular

Hormones in males act on the brain and as a

Result cause changes in function. The observed

Differences in shooting ability between

Men and women is yet another

Of these hormonally induced differences

In brain function.

Professor P O behan MD, dsc,

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FACP, FRCP, is professor emeritus

Of clinical neurology

And senior research fellow at

Glasgow university. His coauthor,

Fred buller, is retired

Managing director of frederick

Beesley, the gunmakers. Email

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